Cal State Fullerton and USC both ended lengthy conference series droughts. But only one team did it in a positive fashion. Fittingly, UC Santa Barbara/Long Beach State and San Diego State/UC Irvine concluded their series with yet another tight game in each series finale.
Check out that plus much more in Saturday’s Southern California college baseball roundup that features photo galleries from Pepperdine, Irvine and Northridge:
Rick Vanderhook didn’t travel with the team to San Luis Obispo and probably wouldn’t have liked what he saw had he went anyway. The nation’s top two closers, Sam Moore and Michael Cederoth, ended up deciding a game. See who came out on top.
But two unlikely heroes headline Thursday’s Southern California college baseball roundup that features video interviews and photo galleries from Northridge and Long Beach State:
Long Beach State took a 3-2 victory to even its annual non-conference series with rival Cal State Fullerton with the assistance of a Titan blunder on a routine fly ball to centerfield Saturday night at Goodwin Field.
The Dirtbags chased Fullerton starter Phil Bickford in the sixth inning after tying the game, 2-2, on an Ino Patron RBI single to plate Garrett Hampson. Reliever Willie Kuhl entered and induced a routine fly to centerfield.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Long Beach State isn’t quite ready to just play spoiler. The Dirtbags think they still have some quality baseball left in the tank. They are drawing on their experience from last year when they made a run down the stretch, winning 14 of 18 at one point, and had an opportunity to win their way into the NCAA Tournament the final weekend of the regular season.
Long Beach State has shown it can play with anyone in the country with wins on the road at Vanderbilt and UCLA. On Saturday, the Dirtbags knocked off another top 25 team as they beat Cal Poly, ranked No. 23 in the NCBWA poll, 3-2 at Blair Field.
Juan Avila hit a deep sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to score the game-winning run two batters after the Mustangs failed to get an out on a potential double play ball. In the ninth inning, Ryan Millison got the first two outs before allowing a walk, but seldom-used senior catch Zach Miller threw out pinch runner Tyler Evanoff to end the game.
LOS ANGELES — Being ahead is better than trailing, especially if you can get ahead in the first inning. Putting the opposition in the hole right away can really set the tone for the game and alleviate pressure in the winning team’s dugout.
That’s why Long Beach State second baseman/centerfielder Jeff McNeil has become such a dynamic weapon, which he showed Tuesday night in the Dirtbags’ 11-1 thrashing of No. 9 UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
On March 12, Long Beach State head coach moved Jeff McNeil into the leadoff spot permanently. Since then, McNeil has reached base to open the Dirtbags’ half of the first inning 13 of 22 games. He has come around to score seven runs in the first inning. Continue reading
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Cal State Fullerton freshman Thomas Eshelman needed only 62 pitches to get through seven innings as he shut down rival Long Beach State in a 5-0 non-conference win Friday night at Blair Field.
Michael Lorenzen provided the offense, knocking a solo home run in the second inning to put Fullerton ahead (for good since Eshelman and reliever JD Davis only allowed two Long Beach baserunners). Lorenzen also doubled deep to left-centerfield.
Carlos Lopez brought in a run in the third inning with an RBI single over the shortstop’s head. Chad Wallach made it 3-0 after he scored on an error in the seventh and the Titans blew open the game with three runs in the eighth inning. Keegan Dale got an RBI with a bases loaded walk and Austin Diemer completed the scoring with a two-run single.
But Eshelman was the story as he pitched seven innings, allowing only one baserunner on a low-lining flare by Eric Hutting, younger brother to Fullerton’s Anthony. Eshelman picked up the win to improve to 5-1 while JD Davis had two strong innings out of the bullpen (see That’s Filthy section). Continue reading
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Jeff McNeil singled home the tying run in the sixth inning and put Long Beach State ahead with an RBI single in a three-run eighth inning as the Dirtbags defeated Wichita State 4-1 Friday night at Blair Field. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for Long Beach State.
Long Beach’s offense has struggled recently, scoring only eight runs and averaging less than five hits during its losing streak, but the Dirtbags knocked 11 hits on Friday. McNeil led the way with four singles and Michael Hill added two hits, including a two-run triple. Continue reading
LONG BEACH, Calif. — It might not have been the way Long Beach State planned it, but after a run of close, heartbreaking losses earlier in the year, the Dirtbags won’t complain about Saturday night’s 5-4 extra inning walk-off walk against Loyola Marymount.
The Dirtbags scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth, including the game-tying run after Johnny Bekakis was down to his final strike with two outs, and got the game-winner when Jeff Yamaguchi watched ball four sail wild.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Long Beach State dinked and dunked UC Riverside ace Eddie Orozco until Brennan Metzger’s big RBI double put the Dirtbags ahead in the fifth inning.
The Dirtbags beat Orozco 5-4 Friday night at Riverside Sports Complex to even the Easter weekend Big West conference series.
Metzger scored two runs and knock home two more as he, Matt Duffy (pictured) and Jeff McNeil all tallied three hits. It was just enough for southpaw Ryan Strufing, who picked up the win with three earned runs in seven innings pitched, and Kyle Friedrichs, who earned his third save with two innings of work.
FULLERTON, Calif. — The Long Beach State Dirtbags dropped a pair of 2-1 games to rival Cal State Fullerton in a doubleheader Friday at Goodwin Field.
The losses were the seventh and eighth one-run losses on the season for the Dirtbags (5-12). They are now 3-10 in games decided by two runs or less.
I talked with Long Beach head coach Troy Buckley following the second game. Buckley said the little things are stacking up and keeping the Dirtbags from being successful in the numerous close ball games they’ve played. He talked about how the team has to re-learn how to win in order to pull itself out of the current slump: Continue reading